- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2008

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London Monday announced new sanctions against Iran, a troop increase in Afghanistan, and gave a ringing endorsement of President Bush’s freedom agenda in the Middle East.

Mr. Brown also urged the European Union to join him in freezing the assets of Iran’s largest bank, Melli. The EU did not act formally on Monday but a spokeswoman said the 27-nation body was ready to do so soon.

It was a satisfying conclusion to Mr. Bush’s week-long, six city trip through Europe, which was focused on urging the continent to put more pressure on Iran to stop uranium enrichment, which can be used for a nuclear weapons program.

“We will take action today that will freeze the overseas assets of the biggest bank in Iran, the bank Melli,” Mr. Brown said during a press conference with Mr. Bush.

He also said that Britain will urge Europe and Europe will agree to take further sanctions against Iran.

Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, told reporters after Mr. Brown’s comments that the sanctions would be issued or agreed upon today, and declared the presidents trip extremely successful.

But EU spokeswoman Cristina Gallach caused some Initial confusion when she told wire service reporters that there was no talk of sanctions at a EU meeting in Luxembourg Monday.

Later, however, Ms. Gallach said that the EU foreign ministers had agreed to further sanctions in principle and would definitely take a formal decision at an undetermined future time.

Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, visited Tehran Friday and offered an incentives package to Iran that Mr. Brown said included political and economic partnership, and help with nuclear technology for civilian use.

Mr. Brown’s strong stance on Iran was just one of several gestures supporting Mr. Bush.

The prime minister has been on his heels politically after a recent defeat in parliamentary elections, and Mr. Bush remains unpopular in much of Europe.

But Mr. Brown did not shrink from backing Mr. Bush when the president defended his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and to maintain a large troop presence there over the last five years.

I believe that Iraq is a democracy today because of the action that we have taken. And our next task is to make sure that all Iraqis feel that they have an economic stake as well as a democratic stake in the future of the country, Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown also agreed with Mr. Bushs oft-stated and oft-criticized view that democracy can be established in the Middle East.

“The question facing the Western world is, will we fall prey to the argument that stability is more important than forms of government?” Mr. Bush said, during a press conference with Mr. Brown.

The passion for freedom I think is a universal value, Mr. Brown said.

Britains actual troop increase in Afghanistan will be small, from about 7,800 to 8,000, but Mr. Brown said it but Mr. Bush said he was thankful for Mr. Browns support.

“He’s tough on terror, and I appreciate it,” Mr. Bush said of the British leader.

Mr. Bush also voiced some subtle criticisms of Pakistans power-sharing government and their effort to catch Taliban and al Qaeda fighters along their western border with Afghanistan.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has threatened to send troops into Pakistan to pursue fighters who launch attacks in his country.

“Our strategy is to deny safe haven to extremists who would do harm to innocent people. And that’s the strategy of Afghanistan; it needs to be the strategy of Pakistan,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush called for better cooperation between the two countries, and said the NATO-led force in Afghanistan can play a facilitating role.

Obviously it’s a testy situation there, he said. We can help calm the situation down.

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